Emergency Department renos completed at Lacombe Hospital and Care Centre

(Left to right) City of Lacombe Mayor Grant Creasey, Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr, Alberta Health Services' site manager for the Lacombe Hospital and Care Facility Kimberley Sommerville, Lacombe Health Trust Chair Jim Dixon Jr., AHS Central Zone Chief Zone Officer Janice Stewart and Zone Medical Director Dr. Dan Edgcumbe cut the ribbon marking the grand opening of the newly enhanced emergency department at the Lacombe Hospital and Care Centre in Lacombe, Alta. on Monday, Aug. 22, 2019. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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The Lacombe Hospital and Care Centre’s newly renovated emergency department is set to open its doors to the public this September.

The completion of the $3.1 million project, which included improved treatment spaces, a new waiting room and upgraded infrastructure to create a more functional and comfortable emergency department for patients, nurses and doctors, was officially marked Monday morning during a grand opening celebration at the hospital.

“Our staff are excited to be in the new space,” said Kimberley Sommerville, Alberta Health Services’ (AHS) site manager for the Lacombe Hospital and Care Centre. “We’ve been providing continued emergency room support for the community at the site at a temporary location. I think the staff and physicians have done an amazing job of maintaining that service in a less-than-ideal space and now being able to give them this optimal space is exciting.”

The project has been in the works for nearly a decade, but became a reality in June 2018 when AHS announced they would put $1.8 million, funded through the Government of Alberta’s Infrastructure Maintenance Program (IMP), towards construction, design and consulting engineering.

The remaining $1.3 was contributed by the Lacombe Health Trust, on top of their funding of a 2015 feasibility study aimed at improving patient flow in the emergency department.

As of Nov. 28, 2018, emergency department services had been temporarily relocated to half of the acute care unit, and construction commenced with AHS and health trust representatives knocking a few holes in one of the walls.

Jim Dixon, chair of the Lacombe Health Trust, takes the first swing at the wall of the Lacombe Hospital and Care Facility’s emergency department to officially mark the start of renovations last Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018.(Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe)

In May 2019, AHS announced renovations were both on time and budget and by Monday’s grand opening, it had actually been completed about a month ahead of schedule – and still on budget.

Members of the public had the opportunity to get a first-hand look at some of the many improvements Monday, through a series of tours through the emergency department, and while some were a little harder to spot – such as the infrastructure upgrades to lighting systems and emergency power – others were more obvious, such as the new waiting area, and a much more open floorplan.

“For patients, there’s better flow with the waiting room being open to the triage areas. Once people arrive at the hospital, they can get triaged first isntead of having to stop at the front lobby where they used to check in. Admitting has also been moved into our emergency area, so they’re not back and forth down the hall,” said Sommerville.

“Most importantly is the nursing station being in the centre of our emergency room where (nurses) are able to view all the bays or hallways where we’ll be putting patients, therefore having better line of sight and safety for patients as well.”

Locked doors have been strategically placed to help hospital staff monitor and control traffic flow through the area, and there’s now a locked medication room, which Sommerville says increases safety for both staff and patients.

Kimberley Sommerville, AHS site manager for the Lacombe Hospital and Care Centre, stands in one of the bays in the newly renovated emergency department during the grand opening celebration on Monday, Aug. 26, 2019. (Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe)

A trio of procedure chairs were also added, slightly increasing capacity to better serve the 25,000 people in the Lacombe area, and accomodate the 24,000 visits made to the local emergency department annually moving forward, and all within the same footprint.

Lacombe Health Trust Chair Jim Dixon Jr. was happy to see the project finally come together, and see what the donated funds helped make possible – which also included a donor wall near the waiting room.

“We’re very blessed being in the Lacombe community – we have very generous people here. We had some estates that settled into our health trust as well as a lot of local community members that have stepped up – they’re all visible on our new donor wall…to celebrate their generosity in order to makes changes at the hospital of this nature,” he said.

“This was a partnership right from day one. We worked with the physicians and staff of the hospital. We made sure those folks had a voice on the project team as we designed this. The community supported us through our golf tournament to fund the feasibility of this opportunity and we’ve worked really well with the project team to make sure this is the best it can be.”

The Lacombe Health Trust isn’t done, either. While he’s not sure what project will be next, he says ideas are already flowing.

“We had the ceremony in the ambulance bay this morning and I was looking around thinking there’s some opportunities in here,” he said. “My team’s getting together in October to have another planning session because we still have a vision to make this facility even better.”

In a release, Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro sent his own congratulations.

“Congratulations to all the staff, patients and families on the grand opening of Lacombe’s renovated emergency department,” he said. “Thanks also to Lacombe Health Trust and all the donors for their generous contribution. This project will ensure people in and around Lacombe who need emergency services will receive the best care possible, in a modern facility that keeps them healthy and safe.

“We are making important investments in hospitals and health facilities across Alberta and will continue to work with AHS to make sure money is spent wisely on projects that put patients front and centre.”

The emergency department will begin accepting patients Sept. 3.